The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is asking citizens to be on the lookout for illegal dumping of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to manholes and grease traps.  Citizens are urged to report suspicious activity to Crime Stoppers at 1 (864) 232-7463 or 911.  To report any other tips or information that may help identify those responsible for the illegal dumping, please contact DHEC’s 24-hour emergency response line at 1 (888) 481-0125.

In August three Upstate sewage treatment plants detected PCBs in their collection and treatment systems. After an investigation, DHEC, EPA, and the treatment plants determined PCBs were illegally discharged into area sewers via manholes and a restaurant grease trap.  This week, PCBs were found in Columbia area sewers and traced to another restaurant grease trap.  A grease trap collects and separates restaurant grease to prevent it from clogging sewers.

PCBs were banned by Congress in 1979 because they build up in the environment and cause adverse health effects in wildlife and humans.  PCBs are not commonly found in wastewater, sewers, or sewage treatment plants which discharge treated wastewater to local waterways.  Once inside a sewage treatment plant, PCBs are known to absorb into the sludge that settles out from wastewater during the treatment process.  According to DHEC, despite the illegal dumping, there has been no known discharge of PCBs to local waterways in the Upstate or the Columbia area.

Yesterday DHEC issued an emergency regulation requiring sewage treatment plants to test their sludge for the presence of PCBs.  The regulation also prohibits the land application of sludge with quantifiable levels of PCBs.

Charleston Waterkeeper applauds DHEC, EPA, and our local wastewater treatment authorities for working together to catch the perpetrators.  Let’s all pitch in and help stop this illegal activity before it impacts us here. If you see something suspicious near a manhole or grease trap, contact the Crime Stopper number above.  If you own, manage, or work at or near a restaurant with a grease trap, be extra vigilant.


More information:

DHEC’s September 25, 2013 press release

The State: “Industrial Poisons Found in Columbia Area Sewers

The State: “Columbia Warns of Illegal Dumping at Eatery Sites

Sewer Manhole:

Grease Trap: